I’ve had the opportunity to participate in two events with Diving with Heroes (DWH). My initial experience diving was at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) in the Cayman Islands in 2017. This was a fantastic experience where I was able to meet and dive with fellow veterans who I am still friends with today. Many of the participants are, or have been dealing with, similar struggles I’ve been dealing with for years. This made the small group dynamics a comfortable experience for me (normally I do not feel comfortable in groups with people I do not know). At CCMI I experienced some of the best diving of my life, as well as learning about the marine life in the area. I experienced a lion fish cull, coral reef restoration, as well as setting a Baited Remote Underwater Video System (BRUVS) and view the results. I learned real world lessons about how plastics are ruining our oceans too.
My second trip with DWH was to Útila, Honduras, in 2018. That was a special trip for me. I was a much more experienced diver during that trip. I was truly able to enjoy the dives during the event. As with the first trip, the bonds I made with my fellow veterans are everlasting. These experiences have allowed me to find an inner peace within myself while diving. I have also realized that there are other veterans who, like me, struggle daily but continue to live for the next day. The staff and volunteers that work with DWH are exceptional. I look forward to participating and supporting DWH in the future.
Rich lives in Ocala, Florida. He served 24 years across several branches of the military, eventually entering retired reserve as a chief warrant officer. Rich is now a PADI advanced open water diver. He is working towards his PADI divemaster certification.